Jack Grealish has the potential to become England’s best player at the European Championship. This is his moment. When tournament football hits the market, you need a player who can keep the crowd going. Jack was made for the occasion – the way he holds the ball, the way he draws mistakes, the responsibility he takes on to stamp his authority on big games.
He may not be the one achieving the goals, but he will be the creator, the driving force. He will bring something England hasn’t had in a while – someone to light up the stadium.
Wayne Rooney did that when he caught fire at Euro 2004. Grealish has that attitude, that swagger about his game.
Jack Grealish has the potential to become England’s best player in Euro this summer
The Aston Villa man is the style of a player who can light up a stadium like Wayne Rooney in 2004
If England recreate that Euro 96 fever, Grealish could be this generation’s Gazza
You have to have a ‘give-me-the-ball’ player like that at big tournaments. France had one in Zinedine Zidane. As good as Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit were, Zidane was the man. Give him the ball and he will create the magic to win the game. Grealish has the opportunity to be that player.
Harry Kane is a world class striker. You need that on the big stage. Phil Foden has also had the season of his life in a Manchester City shirt. Foden, Mason Mount and Jude Bellingham will all be key components and may have their special moments.
But this will be Grealish’s tournament. If we want to recreate that Euro 96 feeling, Grealish will be our Gazza. He will be the star.
And I think England have what it takes to do even better than they did in 1996 and reach the final. Considering the number of players Gareth Southgate has available, it’s not unreasonable to think they can make it.
This roster includes players who have played in the Champions League and Europa League finals as well as players – Bellingham, Jadon Sancho and Kieran Trippier – who have extensive experience playing club football abroad. They will have met some of the players England will be playing against.
An important part of all this is the draw. Can we avoid France?
Then take a look at the major teams in Europe. Italy is not what it used to be, although they have a fantastic winning run.
Belgium is a very good team, but their star player, Eden Hazard, is nowhere near in top form. Croatia is an aging squad and will not be far from the team that played England in the World Cup semi-finals. England, on the other hand, has come a long way since then.
With people like Grealish, England have a team that could potentially reach the final finale
Spain has no Real Madrid players in their roster for the first time in their history.
Gareth has a great mix of players. There are so many different methods he can use to make this work.
My main concern, however, is the midfield. In the last four or five games I’ve seen, the midfield has not functioned well. Something seems a bit rigid, not flowing as it should. The big complaint is that we didn’t get enough bodies forward to help Kane. One of the reasons for that is that we didn’t play high enough on the pitch with our fullbacks.
With Declan Rice in midfield, he can pass in a back three so the full backs can play high and wide. They can create the breadth and overload England with Foden, Grealish and Mount. That’s where England can dictate matches.
You sense that Gareth is nervous about his defense. I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t start there with Rice and Kalvin Phillips, if Jordan Henderson isn’t fit. But if I’m the Scottish duo of John McGinn and Scott McTominay, I’m not afraid of that pair. Rice and Phillips would be better off alone. When I was at Newcastle I played with Gary Speed or Kieron Dyer. Speedo would just say to me ‘Go on’ and he would be left behind.
With Kieron, we would just look at each other and know who would sit down and who would go forward. But Rice and Phillips both like to do the same thing, they both want to get the ball from the middle halves.
That’s why England could do something with Henderson or Bellingham in midfield.
Gareth will do well to play it safe and help England into the tournament. But there may come a time when he looks at the attacking talent he has at his disposal and thinks, ‘I just have to go attack here.’
When that time comes, I don’t think he will be afraid to push the button and go for it.
England could do with starting Jude Bellingham or Jordan Henderson at Euro 2020
Jesse Lingard to replace Trent Alexander-Arnold
Gareth Southgate faces a very difficult decision as to who to bring in to replace Trent Alexander-Arnold. So much depends on Harry Maguire and his condition.
Southgate does not want to lose two defenders. But if Maguire is okay, I think he’ll lean towards bringing in Jesse Lingard or James Ward-Prowse.
Ward-Prowse can play anywhere, he even plays as a right back! He is a regular specialist – England lost one in Alexander-Arnold – and his condition is excellent. He played every minute for the past two seasons. Ward-Prowse is also a penalty taker. That is always a factor to consider when entering a tournament.
Then you have Lingard, who is a star. He is used to the occasion. He can wear the England shirt. He has had a brilliant season and I think he has the ability to influence matches in the big moments off the bench. He also comes into the tournament with a lot of confidence, which is essential.
I would choose Lingard. I hope Gareth does too.
Jesse Lingard would be my choice to fill the void left by Trent Alexander-Arnold in the squad
The team I would choose for the European Championship
Who I would select depends on whether Harry Maguire is fit. If so, I’d go back four – Kyle Walker and John Stones alongside Maguire and Luke Shaw.
A lot of it is based on the club agreements they have. I would leave Declan Rice alone in the deep-set pivot with two ahead of him in Mason Mount and Jordan Henderson. If Henderson’s not fit, then Jude Bellingham.
If Maguire is not fit I change the system and go three in the back with Tyrone Mings next to Walker and Stones.
In that system there are fullbacks in Reece James and Ben Chilwell with two central midfielders.
Anyway, my front three are Jack Grealish on the left, Phil Foden on the right and Harry Kane in the middle.